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Gabriel Salguero: Lessons Learned in Africa

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Rev. Gabriel Salguero smiles with a group of children while in Africa on a trip organized by Bread for the World. Photo by Racine Tucker-Hamilton/Bread for the World.

A recent trip to Africa changed Gabriel Salguero's life. According to him, the poverty and hunger that millions of families and children experience in Africa is no different from that of Latin America. Now, he is very clear, more than ever, about his commitment to continue the struggle and to advocate for the assistance that the United States provides to foreign countries.

“We are highly committed to foreign aid, including programs that involve mothers, prenatal health, and malnutrition in children under 2 years of age,” Salguero said. He visited Tanzania, Zambia, and Malawi last October on a 10-day trip organized by Bread for the World. The purpose of the trip was to increase awareness among religious leaders about child and maternal nutrition issues.

According to Salguero, he was shocked to see entire villages completely dependent on the foreign aid that the United States provides.

“If the United States Congress cuts the aid to thousands of children and mothers, they will lose this opportunity and it will have dire consequences,” said Salguero, who lives in New Jersey and is the president of the National Coalition of Latin American Evangelists, which congregate more than 3,000 churches in the whole country.

The situation in this part of the world has become so difficult that at least 12.4 million people in  the Horn of Africa are experiencing a humanitarian crisis and the worst drought in 60 years. According to the United Nations, approximately 40,000 people, most of them children under 5 years old, have died since the hunger crisis was declared in July 2011.

One of the most moving moments during his trip was when Salguero visited a center for children infected with HIV/AIDS in Zambia, where hundreds of minors and their mothers are carriers of the virus and/or are sick with it.

“I saw a 6-year-old girl carrying a 2-year-old girl. She was like her mother, since the younger girl's parents had died,” Salguero said. “As a person with ethics, I have to do something so that the youth and children have adequate nutrition for their survival. It is a tragedy that we have to talk about with clarity and accuracy.” He insists that Congress should not cut the funds provided for those less favored nations.

Less than 1 percent of the federal budget is spent on poverty-focused development assistance, but that small amount of money saves lives. Each year, this funding provides food to 46.5 million of the world’s most vulnerable people and children through P.L. 480 food aid; feeds 5 million schoolchildren through the McGovern-Dole School feeding program; and prevents more than 114,000 infants from being born with HIV.

“This is a moral crisis; if the foreign aid budget is cut, there will be serious consequences for Latin American and African youth,” Salguero said. “This is an investment in the future of the world.”

Salguero already began his task of sharing the lessons learned in his visit to Africa: to create awareness of the importance of foreign aid and that the United States continue to provide it. “To talk about poverty and its disastrous effects in Africa. My commitment is to educate the national population about what is going on and about the consequences that a bad foreign aid policy could have.”

Isabel C. Morales is hispanic media consultant at Bread for the World.

 

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